JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A police K-9 was shot Friday afternoon following a pursuit that ended in a crash on Busch Drive near the Jacksonville Zoo, and two people in the vehicle that was being pursued died at the scene, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
According to Director Cowan, with the Sheriff’s Office, police were dispatched at 1:52 p.m. to a call of gunshots in the area of Commonwealth Avenue and Division Street. An officer observed a vehicle matching a description of a potential suspect vehicle, Cowan said, and while attempting to contact the people inside the vehicle, there was an exchange of gunfire on West 45th Street.
“Fortunately, our officer was not struck by the gunfire at that incident. Investigators later recovered a handgun at that scene,” Cowan said.
Cowan said the suspect vehicle fled the area, leading to a pursuit, which ended in a crash at an intersection involving the suspects’ car and another vehicle on Busch Drive at Zoo Parkway. The suspects’ vehicle, he said, came to a rest at the fence line of the zoo.
Cowan said officers gave commands for the three people inside the vehicle to surrender, and he said they did not comply.
“A decision was made to employ a K-9 into the vehicle. At least one suspect fired a weapon at the K-9, striking the dog. Five officers returned fire and extracted the canine to safety. A standoff ensued,” Cowan said.
Cowan added that one person who was in the vehicle surrendered and was transported for injuries related to the crash. He was not struck by gunfire, Cowan said.
“SWAT officers later cleared the vehicle and determined two suspects in the vehicle to be deceased. The medical examiner will determine their cause of death,” Cowan added.
He said a rifle was recovered from inside the vehicle. The three people inside the vehicle were not identified.
Cowan added that the police K-9 who was wounded was rushed to a Jacksonville Beach hospital for treatment. The K-9 was said to be in stable condition and out of surgery.
Officers outside the clinic told News4JAX earlier in the day that the dog was expected to survive.
“The team was amazing. I’m so impressed and so grateful to work with the surgery and emergency critical care staff here today,” said Dr. Sydney Davis. “Everyone did an amazing job pulling together.”
A board member of K-9s United, who happened to be at the animal clinic, sent a photo of the police chopper as it arrived at the clinic in Jacksonville Beach.
At one point, the scene on Busch Drive caused the zoo to temporarily close. People were asked to shelter in place, and just after 5 p.m., the zoo said it was releasing guests from the temporary hold.
Michelle Wiggins said she was at the zoo near the elephant exhibit when she took cover with her family. She said she heard gunfire from outside the zoo.
“The scariest thing to think is you’re going to the zoo and then you have to fight for your life or run from somebody like that. They were loud. We could see JSO through the tree line at the front of the park and it was crazy,” Wiggins said.
Amanda Strickland, who was also at the zoo, said she too heard gunshots in the distance.
“We were near the elephants and we heard five or six loud gunshots. So we knew they were very close,” Strickland said. “We were like, is this inside or outside? We couldn’t tell and were talking about what we should do when a worker came running up franticly and said, ‘There’s a shooter. Run. Run as fast as you can,’ and pointed at us to run in a certain direction. We all grabbed our kids and ran as fast as we could. They directed us to the restaurant by the jaguars. We went and hid in the kitchen.”
K9s of Valor and other sources confirmed that K-9 Huk was the dog that was injured and being treated.
“Please keep K9 Huk with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in your thoughts and prayers as he is being treated for gun shot wounds,” K9s of Valor wrote. “Our prayers are with Huk, his handler and the department.”
If Huk’s name sounds familiar, he’s been used in the capture of wanted men, including Patrick McDowell, who has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Nassau County Deputy Joshua Moyers during a traffic stop.